Politics and Food: The truth behind Chennai’s food street breaching Covid protocol

Rachel Hudson

Chennai

Police and shopkeepers allege that political power may be a reason for Chennai’s Kora Food Street to breach Covid protocol and be open past government guidelines.

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the implication of numerous rules and regulations. One such rule for restaurants was to function with 50% capacity and close at 9 pm. Most restaurants stop customers at 8:30 pm, so as to give restaurants a leeway to clean up and shutdown. While all the shops close, one place just begins its business – Kora Food Street (KFS).

Located in an open area on the bustling  2nd avenue in Anna Nagar, Kora Food Street is not a typical food street. Apart from its vast array of eateries, KFS is also known for the unique way in which it is designed using standard 60ft shipping containers. Kora food street was set up 3 years ago by Rajasekar Kora in a prime location with 13-15 eateries. In no time KFS doubled in size expanding to over 30 eateries and more than 2000 customers on weekends making this food street one of the go to spots for Chennaiites. The colorful containers, bright lights and mouth-watering smells are quick to grab people’s attention. 

A busy day at Kora Food Street in Chennai.

Having 2 levels of dining accommodates more customers and at the same time gives room to establish more eateries. The jostling mask-less crowds throughout the day would make you wonder if the pandemic was over. Kora Food Street, although being on the main road, does not even dim their lights after 9 pm and by not following government guidelines, could soon become a Covid hotspot. 

As the only food street in Anna Nagar, KFS was open till 4 am prior to the pandemic. During the lockdown in Chennai all restaurants and eateries were open only for delivery. As the lockdown was lifted and restrictions were eased, Kora Food Street is the only eatery in Anna Nagar which is open past the timing set by the government. “If it is open past 9 pm all I can say is the place is owned by a VIP and I would suggest you keep yourself out of these things” said B.L. Ganesh the security guard at Kora Food Street.

Rizwan, the owner of all the ice cream parlors in KFS said “Closing time is around 1-3 am. The manager says that we have permission to be open”. Patrolling police drive past the well-lit, crowded food street and make no attempt to shut it down but pull up with wailing sirens at a tea shop open past 9 pm.

Neighboring shops assume KFS has special permission to be open past the curfew. They were also furious at the police for shutting down their shops as they were comparatively smaller and had fewer customers when compared to Kora Food Street.

A Police source said “No permission can be given to anyone to keep their restaurants open past 9 pm as per the Covid guidelines issued by the Tamil Nadu government, unless they are someone from a high position”. The Police and the employees at Kora Food Street were not willing to give a clear reason as to why this is the only place fearlessly breaching protocol.

An anonymous source who owns a food street in south Chennai said “The owner of Kora Food Street is related to MLA M.K Mohan and that is the sole reason why no one tells them to close”.

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